Ma’am, You Need A Goat…

Spring has come to Tremonton–the grass is green and almost 12 inches tall!  We have had wonderful rain, and rain, and rain.  Interspersed with sun and some warm-enough temperatures to grow buckets of dandelions–all with multiple heads curling up like ferns.  And I could use a goat, a herd of goats.

I have mowed every day this week, 6 days in all.  And I estimate that I am about 1/2 done.  Filling bags and bags of grass.  Filling garbage cans and cans with winter debris.  And piles and piles and bags and bags waiting for pick-up…

This is not a complaint or a whine.  Just a description of my last-days-of- April week. 

Record sources for early Tennessee research

The next several posts on this blog will include excerpts from a Master List of  Tennessee Record Sources, 1750-1815.  I began this list some years back for a presentation to the AFRA Genealogical Conference in Kansas City MO.  And I have expanded it as I came across useful information.  I will undoubtedly add to it after I print up copies.

This is the greatest hurdle you will experience in Tennessee research:  connecting a Tennessee ancestor or one just passing through on the way to some other place to their origins in Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey.  Not to mention those who seem to come from the British Isles or Europe direct!

So first the record source Master List.  Then the strategies and the interpretations that help you to make sense of what the records say.

Stay tuned in.

Be careful with the online census records.  Here is an example of interpretation–by computer, arranging names in alphabetical order:

Smith County, Tennessee, 1850. Ancestry. com

North of Cumberland and East of Caney Fork Rivers

Typed summary--

Claiborne Hall     61

Elizabeth Hall      60

John Hall               16

Martha J Hall       47

Sarah Hall              10

Susan Hall              33

Usebius Hall          12

William Hall          17

Original census order–

Claiborne Hall      61

Elizabeth Hall       60

William Hall          17

John Hall               16

Susan Hall             33

Usebius Hall         12

Sarah Hall              10 

Martha J Hall       47

Interpretation of  each list of names is quite different.  This is always true with alphabetical lists.  You don’t live in alpha order and neither did your ancestors.  

Helpful clerks who arrange the data as they recopy it.  Computer programs that arrange all lists for convenience.  Alpha does save time.  It may not save relationships.  And when you add the further information that the census taker frequently re-copied the entries from field notes taken as he went from house to house or as he recorded what people told him as he sat in the courthouse or the drugstore.  You can see that rarely do you have an original record.

Considerations for reading and understanding handwritten records–

  1. Since the census is recorded from memory by whomever responded to the enumerator.  
  2. And the enumerator wrote down what he heard–usually without any corroborating documents.  
  3. And you read the record from the computer screen, where the website arbitrarily writes MyFamily.com somewhere on the census image (in this case over the name Usebius).  
  4. And since reading a handwritten record is often a matter of recognition rather than knowledge.

You may need a goat too.  Your favorite Tennessee genealogist, Arlene Eakle   http://www.arleneeakle.com

PS  Hang in there–the Master List of Tennessee Record Sources, 1750-1815 (your goat) is coming to the rescue.  In segments on this blog first.  Then in printed form.

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